There is a misconception that wool cannot be dyed in bright colours, as traditionally wool fibres are dyed with acid, metal complex and reactive dyes, and these are not as bright as the basic dyes used on some other fibres. Brightly coloured apparel made from basic dyed acrylic catches the attention of consumers and retailers.
AgResearch has developed a process that lets wool take-up bright basic dyes. In this process basic-dye-binding sites are introduced in wool fibres by polymeric grafting without affecting the handle. Basic-dyed wool fabrics have fastness properties comparable to those of basic-dyed synthetics.
The AgResearch process also makes it easier for textile mills to make certain wool-blend fabrics. Wool fibre treated by the basic dyeable process can be blended with acrylic and basic dyeable polyester fibres, and the blends dyed in a single operation. In the past the different fibres would have needed to be dyed separately, adding considerably to cost and environmental impact.
The process AgResearch has developed can be used to dye wool for sportswear and fashionable womens wear where bright colour is often desirable.
AgResearch is seeking industry partners for the commercialisation of this technology.